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How does the Draft Lottery work in the NBA?

NBA draft lottery
Photo: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to sports that offer fast-paced excitement and all-out action, basketball is hard to beat. The NBA is the premier competition in pro basketball and is home to all the best teams, as well as the top players. Current legends, such as LeBron James, and past icons, such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, are great examples of this.

This not only makes the NBA a top sport to watch but also a great choice for sports betting. Now that many US states have legalized betting on sports, it is a great way to add more excitement to games and get close to the action. Just remember to check out the latest team news and odds before betting sports online legally so that you can make an informed decision. Best Odds not only brings top odds for NBA games, but it is also a trusted source for the latest basketball news and advice on what to look for in any online sportsbook.

It is not just the on-court action that you can bet on though. Each year, the NBA holds a Draft and a Draft Lottery before the next season gets underway. While most people know about the Draft, not as many know what the Draft Lottery entails.

What is the Draft Lottery in the NBA?

If your team has a bad season, it could mean that you are in for another poor campaign again in the coming year. To help poorly performing sides improve and avoid this, the NBA Draft and Draft Lottery are held each year. The Draft is usually held in July and sees the worst-performing teams get the first pick of upcoming college talent.

What about the Draft Lottery? This is normally held a little earlier in May/June and is a separate but still key event for sides. In simple terms, the Draft Lottery works out what order teams will select players in the Draft itself. This is why the Lottery is usually held earlier than the Draft. The Lottery normally contains the teams who didn’t make the playoffs last time out and is designed to help them access the best young talent for the next campaign. Interestingly, the Lottery system only came into effect in 1984. Before then, a team’s simple win-loss record from the previous year would determine what order they picked in.

How does the system work?

Over time, the exact way that the Lottery system works around the NBA Draft has changed. From 1986 to 1990, for example, the draft order was randomly worked out by choosing envelopes with the name of each non-playoff team inside. The team who got pulled out first got first pick and so on up to 14. This was changed for the current weighted system though when people began to accuse the old system of being rigged.

Currently, the selection of numbered ping-pong balls from a lottery machine is used to decide which of the 14 poorest teams will have the first four draft picks. Each ball is numbered 1 to 14 and the Lottery usually begins by drawing out four balls to determine who will get the top picks. New rules since 2019 see the three worst teams from the previous year have an equal chance of picking first in the Draft (around 14%). This naturally sees the remaining teams in the lottery with less odds of achieving this.

The current rules also state that the drawing of balls from a lottery machine only decides the order of the first four picks in the NBA Draft. After these have been decided, the remaining teams not chosen in this way are allocated their draft pick order based on their previous season’s record.  

The NBA Draft Lottery is exciting

The NBA is an exciting league to follow and the NBA Draft Lottery is exciting in its own right and can really have an impact on how teams fare the next season. It can also impact how the whole league plays out in the coming year as a result. If a struggling team get lucky and end up with the number one draft pick, it can be enough to transform their fortunes. When you combine the Lottery with the Draft itself, it is the highlight of the whole NBA year for many fans.

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